Why did Hendrick back off? It wasn’t just because the cost of protesting was scary. He’s Hendrick Egan, who adhered to what he thought was right, but now, he realized what mistake he had made.
‘Hendrick… Oh, Hendrick. What the hell have you done?’
At that moment, old memories flooded back into his mind. Hendrick, who is currently known as Master Blacksmith, also had a time when he was just an apprentice. At that time, just like in the current circumstances, he chose to make a living rather than cling to his sense of duty as a blacksmith, and he worked day and night in order to establish himself as a decent blacksmith as soon as possible. Naturally, he got a beating. Dmitry has now abolished his past bad habits, but the bruises never faded from his body when Hendrick was learning to work.
One day, a mercenary came to the forge. The mercenary, who had just started to get out into the real world, brought only 1 silver and asked the blacksmith to sell him a sword. He said, “I am well aware that it is not enough money to buy a good sword. However, this is all my possessions, and if you sell me the sword, I promise to pay it back tenfold later. I have a family to support. All I have is a strong body, so I need a weapon to make money.”
It was actually common—Those with neither land to farm nor special talents believed only in their one body and jumped into the mercenary work. The current situation was the same case. However, the master of the smithy was not compassionate enough to give a sword to a man he had never seen before, so he spat bitter swear words at the mercenary and drove him out of the smithy.
At that time, the back of the mercenary was truly miserable. Hendrick couldn’t stand still as he looked at the slumped shoulders carrying the burden of his family on his shoulders. Secretly, Hendrick followed the mercenary. Then, without asking for anything in return, he gave him the first sword he had made without his master’s knowledge. Back then, he was happy. Seeing the mercenary shed tears and express his gratitude, Hendrick thought that this might be the true happiness of being a blacksmith.
It was that moment when he was proud of his job for the first time, and Hendrick, who returned to the forge, immersed himself in his work with the thought of making a better sword. However, after 1 month, when he faced the mercenary’s corpse, Hendrick felt his world collapse. Behind the family’s cries, people talked about why the mercenary died.
“This time, he was on a top escort mission and died. Poor guy. If only his sword had not broken in the process of dealing with the bandits, he would have been able to come back alive just like the other guys. That’s why one should use good weapons.”
“I know. Everyone else is fine, but only he was dead, right?”
Hearing that, Hendrick’s heart sank. His hands and feet began to tremble. What he thought was a good deed had taken a mercenary’s life. Then, a strange feeling arose within him. It was only then that he understood why his master had said it was too early for him to make swords; however, no matter how quickly he regretted it, he could not turn back the reality in front of his eyes.
Due to that, Hendrik lived as a poor man for a while. Without the help of his close friend, Baron Romero, he would not have been able to return to the forge. Due to that pain, Hendrick vowed never to repeat something like that again, and he was able to overcome such a painful past and grow into a Master Blacksmith.
However, he made the same mistake now as he did back then. Hendrick, for a moment, forgot his past mistake and repeated the mistake he regretted countless times just because he didn’t like Roman.
‘It’s really pathetic.’
No excuse could work in the current situation. For whatever reason, as Roman pointed out, he nearly killed an innocent person with the rubbish he handed over. He took back what he said. He made no excuses.
If Roman punishes me, whether that is the price of protest or some other punishment, I will humbly accept it.
“I will pay for my actions.”
At Hendrick’s words, the blacksmiths tried to stop him with bewildered faces. They could not accept the current situation. Hendrick was their everything, and Roman was not Baron Romero, so he could not be punished directly by Roman Dmitry or anything like that.
Roman held the hilt. Hendrick looked up at Roman’s face, waiting for his punishment. At that moment, his eyes met Roman’s eyes.
“If you are so sorry for your mistake, I will not question you anymore. Let’s get back to the basics. I know that Master Hendrick is a great blacksmith. Therefore, I would like some equipment to arm 30 soldiers.”
Roman’s words were truly unexpected. Hearing them, Hendrick’s pupils shook wildly. He was an outrageous guy. He acted like he would bring severe punishment down on the master, but when given a chance, he showed mercy.
Roman understood Hendrick—He understood how difficult it was for him to admit his mistake in front of his followers. Roman truly understood his position.
‘Anyone can make mistakes. At the very least, if the mistake is something that can be compensated for, an act of repentance will give them another chance.’
Punishing his own beloved servant only happened when the actions of the said servant were severe. However, it was different from now. Hendrick was a man with a bad relationship with Roman, and he only took timid revenge, not thinking about what will happen due to his own judgment. If he didn’t show any remorse, Roman could call it malice, but at least Hendrick knew what was right and what was wrong.
‘Penalty and punishment should not contain emotion.’
That was Baek Joong-hyuk’s iron rule, and he always acted according to the iron rule.
Roman said, “As I said before, I don’t think Master Hendrick was intentionally trying to protest. Perhaps it’s because of the antipathy towards me, and I fully understand that feeling. So, I want us to put our mistakes aside. All I want is swords and armours that will protect the lives of my soldiers.”
It was like a stick and a carrot. After swinging his stick until Hendrick’s skin was reddened, Roman presented the carrot with clever eloquence.
Seeing Roman’s attitude, Hendrick was amazed again.
‘Roman has changed.’
He had heard rumours. In particular, he was aware to some extent of the reputation around him because he had really changed due to this enlistment recruitment. However, seeing it in person was different. Hendrick, who had been ignoring the truth, had only now seen the true face of Roman. It was different from before.
Roman, who had dirty and clouded eyes, became a strong man, and the charisma that came from his sharp eyes made Hendrick’s heart tremble.
It’ wasn’t just that Roman changed his appearance. It was to the extent that he could be considered a completely different person; Roman was different from his past appearance in every aspect.
How is this possible? Obviously, there are traces of Roman, who was known as Dmitry’s fool, but he cannot be called that anymore.
Hendrick’s prejudice was stripped away. He acknowledged Roman—Roman had changed, and today’s incident was his own fault. He regretted it countless times in the past, and he could not tolerate that he gave garbage equipment to Roman because of his personal feelings.
Hendrick said, “…Once again, I’m really sorry about this. In the future, no matter what happens, I will not repeat this kind of thing. And as an apology, I will prepare weapons and armour for your soldiers with the finest iron Dmitry is proud of.”
After all the chaos was over, Roman decided to pick up the goods later and left the forge. In the process, he listened to Hendrick’s circumstances through another blacksmith.
“The sword Young Master Roman stole that day was a masterpiece made by Master Hendrick. It took six months to come up with it, and it was a masterpiece he barely finished while living in the blacksmith for a whopping three months. However, the young master sold it to a street vendor at a bargain price, so it was natural for him to be angry. What really upset Master Hendrick was that rather than the fact that Young Master Roman stole it and sold it, the masterpiece he had created could not be found and was sold at a low price.”
Now, Roman understood. Why was Hendrick angry? What was the reason for doing what he did to Roman even though he knew it was against the spirit of craftsmanship? Roman from the previous life has crossed the line. It was an unforgivable mistake. Maybe that’s why, before he left for the last time, Hendrick said to Roman, “I have not completely forgiven you for this. I will grant your request because I was wrong, but I still cannot tolerate the neglect of the Dmitry family’s eldest son in the forge’s work. Keep in mind—Dmitry’s roots lie in the forge. In the future, if the day comes when you can make even a single piece of garbage with your own hands, that might be an opportunity when I see you in a new light.”
Hendrick was stubborn. Although he said that this incident had removed a layer of prejudice, he did not recognize Roman as Dmitry’s successor. Nevertheless, even Hendrick had one misjudgment.
’The Roman Dmitry Hendrick remembers must have been a fool who had no interest in the smithy—Garbage that ignores the roots of the family and enjoys only pleasure. It’s completely understandable why Dmitry’s people hate him. However.’
Baek Joong-hyuk was different.
“From now on, shall we prepare for dispatch?”
Roman took a step. For this outing, one more purpose remained.
The place where Roman arrived was a workshop where he initially practised. The workshop, which was old and shabby back then, was neatly organized enough to be able to work right now. Immediately after he decided to go to war, Roman told Hans to make it usable for its original purpose.
“Long time no see.”
He walked inside and checked his surroundings. It was a nice place. The ceilings were high, ventilation was good, and the lighting properly separated the areas to be lit and those to be darkened. For a blacksmith, ventilation was essential.
The smoke and dust from the coal fire obstructed the view, so ventilation was the first priority when checking a suitable forge place.
After that, Roman saw familiar things—A furnace for heating, an anvil that looks cold and heavy and the oak pedestal that supports it, hammers and tongs and so on. It was something he had seen in Hendrick’s workspace, but for Roman, the present moment was special.
‘The first day comes back to my mind.’
The day I started my life as a Roman.
Listening to Dmitry’s history in a shabby shack, Roman thought that maybe this was his fate. The Heavenly Demon, Baek Joong-hyuk—In the history of Murim, he was simply described as the strongest in the world, but those who were even a little interested in him knew a different side of Baek Joong-hyuk. He was exactly what a blacksmith looked like. Right after Baek Joong-hyuk made up his mind to go to the army, he always came to the blacksmiths’ forge to perform his own rituals.
In a life of struggle—to survive, to win, and to rule—Baek Joong-hyuk expressed his own soul in front of the hot flames.
The furnace heated up, and flames arose from within. From now on, it was his turn to make a sword for himself, preparing for the war in the future.